Saturday evening was the CD release concert for a project that I had worked on this past year. By all measures, a very successful event and one that I will remember for some time. I was so pleased for the artist. This was certainly a defining moment for him and the culmination of much hard work over the past year.
My son played bass for the concert. We had tracked the CD using Fergus Marsh on bass. Fergus is best known for his work with Bruce Cockburn. My son had some big shoes to fill in terms of translating the recorded work of Fergus into a live setting. And he did an amazing job. I was fronting on guitar and I have to admit that I was very moved that we could share this type of moment together on stage.
I had tried to upgrade to the latest revision of Pro Tools a couple of weeks back but Digidesign was having some trouble with its download servers. I took the plunge last night and upgraded the system to 6.7cs2. Remarkably everything went smooth. I have read about a number of studios having trouble with this release particularly on the MIDI implementation. I won’t get a chance to test the new environment out in a production setting for a few days but my system tests last night were fine.
I came across a great article on bass management which has good information not only for home recordists but for people interested in understanding how to get the best performance out of their multi-channel system in a home theatre environment. You can find the article here.
Floyd Toole, an engineer with Harman International Industries, authored the material. Here is the abstract:
We all dream of having deep, powerful, tight, articulate bass, but amazingly few ever achieve it. Some audiophiles gave up trying, and reverted to small speakers, thus avoiding annoying bass boom, but also abandoning the low fundamental notes of the music. There are several problems, and most of them have nothing to do with the loudspeaker. The room, and the arrangement of loudspeakers and listeners within it, dominate what we hear. It is a problem that cannot be completely solved by good loudspeaker design, or by electronic equalization, although both of these can help. A complete solution requires the input of somebody who understands the fundamentals of room acoustics. Many people are intimidated by room acoustics, considering it one of life’s great mysteries. However, it really is not all that complicated, and we now have some computer aids and acoustical measurement devices to help us. So, with a spirit of optimism, let us venture forth and see how much of it we can understand. We don’t yet have all the answers, but you may be surprised how much is utterly and easily predictable.
In my community I am well known as the local sound doctor. I receive many requests for help to resolve audio problems in fixed installations as well as in personal studios.
I was at a music store last week when I was approached by one of the employees to help him with a problem. He has a small studio in his home. He cannot get his mixes to translate well from his studio. What this means is that everything sounds fine in his studio but when he plays it on another system, say someone’s car, the mix sounds poor.
I asked him to provide me with some dimensions of his space but I already knew why he was not getting good results. Creating a critical listening space where mixes will translate well to other listening environments is very challenging and usually quite expensive. The hobbyist who spends a couple of thousand dollars on a recording chain generally has little appreciation of the importance of the sound of the room.
I put his current space into my magic spreadsheet and little wonder his mixes sound bad. He has so much build up in the low freqency audio spectrum that he likely creates mixes that sound thin and lack energy on other systems.
Here are the conclusions:
1. The control room is much smaller than recommended minimum dimensions to ensure adequate development of a wide frequency range soundfield
2. There is no indication of any acoustic treatment and, based upon generally accepted mode calculations, there is a high probability of significant modes at approximately 100Hz, 112Hz, 165Hz, 190Hz, 225Hz, and 250Hz
3. The mode clusters indicate a high probability of significant standing waves and acoustic interference rendering the control room unusable for critical monitoring and mixing of audio material
Small, square rooms do not perform well. Of course, spending thousands of dollars, often tens of thousands, on the acoustic treatment of a well designed control room is beyond the reach of most home recordists. There should not be an expectation by the home recordist that the end product will sound as good as professionally recorded material. Unfortunately, the marketplace creates the impression that great sounding recordings can be made with cheap equipment in substandard acoustic environments.
Very active on the performance side these days. Funny, over the past ten to fifteen years, most of my live work was on the engineering side. Now I get to make the sound engineer’s life difficult for a change.
I have been alternating between bass and guitar. My live rig for guitar is quite extensive but the same cannot be said for the bass. I had been using the Radial JDI direct box for connection to the house system and a small Ampeg RB50 as the primary amp/speaker combination. Unfortunately the Ampeg RB50 is not intended for stage use particularly in those areas that seat more than three or four hundred people.
I went shopping a couple of weeks ago to put together a rig for the bass. The requirements were pretty straightforward: exceptional tone and portable. I tried a number of combinations and I settled on an Ampeg SVT-3PRO head (pictured below) and an SWR Goliath III Jr 2×10 speaker cabinet. I tried the unit with a passive bass and it sounded great. The speaker cabinet fits in my trunk and weighs about 50 pounds. Relatively portable.
When I got the rig home I tried it out with 4 different basses: an active Warwick Corvette 5-string, an active Godin BG-4 4-string, a passive Peavey Patriot 4-string and an active Fender Deluxe American Jazz 5-string. The Fender created hum like you would not believe. I had to jury rig a ground from the bridge of that instrument to my body to suppress the noise. I used the Fender on stage and the hum problem was magnified by the stage lighting.
I have refered the instrument to my guitar tech for shielding which, hopefully, will get done over the next couple of days. Even when you spend several thousand dollars on a quality instrument, most manufacturers use very poor electrical practices with respect to shielding and grounding.
I should have done this when I first bought the instrument but I was not playing as much and the small Ampeg combo did not have the sensitivity to make the hum obtrusive. The good news is that the Fender will come back nice and quiet!
I have a storage area in the studio which is used as a final resting place for equipment that becomes outdated. My wife and I began the process of cleaning out that storage area last night. We were forced into this radical action because there is no space remaining in the storage area. What kind of equipment is in there? I have an old D&R series 4000 recording console. This is a pretty large piece of equipment in its own right. Roughly 7 feet wide, 5 feet deep and about 300 pounds. I have cables, amplifiers, speakers, monitors, computers, files, tapes, and more in that space.
We began by exploiting the divide and conquer approach. All of the old computers were brought out first. There were 6 computers, four monitors, a scanner, assorted modems, mice, keyboards and many computer cables.
It was obvious to me that a couple of the computers were ready for disposal. They were incomplete units. One of them consisted of a case and power supply. Two of them were full machines.
I powered them up. They still worked! One of the computers was a Compaq DeskPro. This computer had a 100MHz Pentium MMX processor, 32MB of RAM and 1.6GB of storage. The last operating system I had put on that machine was Windows 98. I could not believe how slow computing was back in the mid to late 90s. My current video cards have more processing power than this Compaq.
However, what totally distracted us from making progress on the storage area was a journey back in time. I had left the hard disk intact and it contained all sorts of documents that have sentimental value to our family. Thankfully, I can still recover that data and move it to a media where I can do a better job preserving some of the memories we have created on an electronic basis.
Thank goodness I did not just throw that machine out!
Some of you may have caught the news about U2’s new album being pirated away just prior to its release in November.
A major investigation is already underway by the French police. BBC News reported that around 20 people were being questioned regarding the CD’s disappearance at the Victorine recording studio. The studio, located in Nice, was the site of the band’s photo shoot.
U2 recorded much of the new album, which has not yet been titled, in Dublin. The band was in France completing some post-production work. The missing CD was a rough cut and not a finished product.
Studio de la Victorine is part of the Euro Media Television Group and has been renamed to Studios Riviera. The studio offers 10 sound stages and over 750,000 square feet of space. I spent some time in Nice many years back. Not a bad place to to hold a photo shoot but be wary of pirates. They are everywhere.
Cinram is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of pre-recorded DVD, VHS Video Cassette, CD-Audio, CD-ROM, and Audio Cassettes. I have toured one of their facilities in Toronto and they have impressive manufacturing capabilities. Most commercial audio CDs that are distributed in Canada are manufactured by Cinram.
Cinram also requires proof of licensing for all new orders. They are now active in the International Recording Media Association’s (IRMA) Anti-Piracy Compliance Program. This program allows Cinram to be in compliance with applicable copyright law protecting the rights of legitimate intellectual property rights holders. Cinram’s Huntsville, Richmond, Indiana and Toronto facilities are all certified.
This means that for any new orders, or any re-orders for which licensing was never provided, proper licensing documentation is required prior to manufacturing.
Of course, small run operations have no such requirements and neither do all of those millions of CDRs but I suppose it is a start.